Archive for the Baroque Category

The Consequence of Beauty

Posted in 16th cent, 17th century, Baroque, Nautilus Shells on October 25, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I consider myself relatively sensitive to God’s lesser creatures, I am essentially vegetarian (aside from the fish that I guiltily consume), I try to avoid leather, I am unaware of friends possessing garments made of fur, and of course dogs are a burning issue.

That said todays paper pointed out the atrocious exploitation of the nautilus. According to the article, millions have been slaughtered to satisfy our desire for the pretty shell. I stand amongst that crowd of greedy collectors, my own curiosity cabinet contains a few. I won’t purchase anymore, but I am appalled at my own insensitivity. I hadn’t really thought of the pretty shell as  having once belonged to this spectacular and ancient creature. I rather just accepted the shell as being something to collect and admire, my ignorance is disturbing. 

Source: Today’s New York Times

To celebrate this poor creature, I will, rather perversely highlight a few particularly lovely examples of how the creature’s sacrifice was made seemingly worthwhile, at least from an aesthetic perspective.

Nautilus Snail

1630

nautilus shell, silver gilt 

Wadsworth Athaneum

Cup

 1585

silver gilt, polished shell

Not a nautilus shell but quite beautiful AND someone’s home

Victoria & Albert Museum

Nautilus Cup

mid 17th cent.

nautilus shell, silver gilt

Wadsworth Athaneum

I don’t believe these courtly objects were the cause of the near demise of the nautilus; it is of course the gross exploitation that pumps out hideous baubles. As the biologist Peter D. Ward, as quoted in today’s New York times states, “A horrendous slaughter is going on out here.” We need to be mindful of that. I for one will be less glib, and less tempted to purchase shells, no matter how beautiful they may be.

Until take time, take care,

Babylon Baroque

Saint Jokanaan, the Gospel According to Salome

Posted in 15th century, 16th cent, 17th century, 19th Century, 20th century, Baroque, Caravaggio, Decadent Movement, El Greco, Moreau, St. John the Baptist, Titian on June 23, 2011 by babylonbaroque

June 24th is the feast day of the blessed Baptist John.

My previous post concerning Caravaggio and Catamites featured many lovely depictions of the martyr, I would like to continue , for like Salome many artists have found the fellow captivating.

Of course I am unable to think of Jokanaan without thinking of Oscar, without thinking of  his Salome, so why try?

“Jokanaan, I am amorous of thy body!”

Baciccio

1676

City of Manchester art Gallery, Manchester

“How wasted he is!”

El Greco

1600

Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

“He is like a thin ivory statue. He is like an image of silver. I am sure he is chaste as the moon is. He is like a moonbeam, like a shaft of silver. his flesh must be cool like ivory. I would look closer at him.”

Bernardo strozzi

1615-20

Accademia Lingustica de Belle Arti, Genoa

Jokanaan: “Daughter of sodom, come not near me! But cover thy face with a veil, and scatter ashes upon thine head, and get thee to the desert and seek out the Son of Man.”

Salomé: “Who is he, the Son of Man?Is he as beautiful as thou art, Jokanaan?”

Titian

1542

“Thy body is white like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed.”

Andrea del Sarto

1528

Palazzo Pitti, Florence

‘There is nothing in the world so white as thy body. let me touch thy body.”

Valentin de Boulogne

1625-30

Santa Maria in Via, Camerino

“It is thy mouth that I desire, Jokanaan”

Nicholas Régnier

1610

The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

“I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan, I will kiss thy mouth.”

The Apparition

Gustave Moreau

1876

Louvre

The Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Caravaggio

1608

Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist

Andrea Solari (1460-1524)

“I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan.”

Although we know of Salome’s lust, Saint Jerome (via Omer Englebert The Lives of the Saints) informs us “…that that for a long while Herodias savagely attacked the head of the prophet , repeatedly stabbing his tongue with a dagger.”

Salome’s desire seems decent when compared to mater.

I will close with an image familiar to many of my readers.

I was saddened to discover recently that it is not our dear Oscar in drag playing his most supreme vixen , but is instead an actress, Alice Guszalewice. I will need to look into Alice’s story, but she does look a lot like dear Oscar, so for one Last Dance I will believe it is indeed our hero.

apparently Alice Guszalewice as Salome

I can’t resist this clip from Salome\’s Last Dance, so why try.

In no way was I attempting to be disrespectful or overly ironic concerning the Baptist. I feel that  much of what Wilde expressed was deeply reverent, complicated by human frailty, but still quite reverent.

Wishing a happy feast day of Saint Jean-Baptiste, particularly to the Québécois.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


Cardinal del Monte, Caravaggio and the Catamites

Posted in 16th cent, 17th century, Baroque, Caravaggio, Cardinal del Monte on June 17, 2011 by babylonbaroque

Francesco Maria Bourbon Del Monte Santa Maria was a worldly man of sophisticated taste, created Cardinal in 1588, he was a respected diplomat with aspirations to the Throne of St. Peter. Given the Bourbon connection and his pro French sympathies, the Spanish vote would quash such aspirations. That is perhaps just as well,for there are so many popes, they all seem to run together, even for this manic (Renaissance/humanist) papal sympathizer.   The good Cardinal is best known for his promotion of Caravaggio, in particular  securing the commission to decorate the Contarelli Chapel. The tenebristic masterwork ,The Calling of St. Matthew (in addition to The Inspiration of St.Matthew and The Martyrdom of St. Matthew )  mandates we offer gratitude to Cardinal del Monte for making such fine use of his power and influence.

Thank you Cardinal.

Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte

b. 5th of July 1547

d. 27th of August 1627

portrait by Ottavio Leoni, 1616

Caravaggio

The Calling of St. Matthew

1599-1600

oil in canvas

Contarelli Chapel

When I look closely at this marvelous painting , I am frankly drawn to the strange cast of characters this unscrupulous tax collector has surrounded himself with. Soon enough good Matthew will reject worldliness for Our Lord, but Caravaggio captures this moment of revelation with Matthew surrounded by penny pinching money grubbers and  young men/ boys in rakish peacock-ery.

This taste for plumed boys with slashed sleeves seems to reflect the taste of Caravaggio and his patron, rather then the dear Saint.

We will see these boys time and again, with or without their flamboyant finery, in Caravaggio’s work in general and in particular within Cardinal del Monte’s collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art , which holds The Musicians informs us that Cardinal del Monte’s collection held a number of paintings that suggest a taste less then chaste. Although the Met makes quite a point that these suggestive paintings do not indicate untoward sexual taste; to this dilettantish observer they incriminate just a wee bit.

The most famous, and beautiful painting within del Monte’s collection was the aforementioned Musicians.

The Musicians

1595 

Metropolitan Museum of Art

In addition to the band of musical boys we have,

The Lute Player

1596

Hermitage Museum

The Cardsharps

1595

Kimbell Art Museum

The Fortune Teller

1595

Pinacoteca Capitolina,Rome

The cast of characters within this collection is consistent, I have read the boys who served as models may have been part of the Cardinal’s domestic household. Whether street urchin or livery boy they proved fetching to dear Caravaggio and the Cardinal.

Caravaggio would of course go on to paint a slew of moody marvels, but he returned to the Ephebes from time to time; often as the sainted Baptist, with or without that itchy fur loincloth.

John in the Wilderness

1598

St. John the Baptist

1605

The following has always creeped me out a bit, a bit too nude, too young, too frankly sexual. The ram just a bit too lusty.

St John the Baptist ( Youth with Ram)

1600

Pinacoteca Capitoline

Somehow Caravaggio manages to sex up blessed Francis,

St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy

1595

Valiant David receives the Caravaggio treatment as well,

David with the Head of Goliath

1607

It is often noted how fond Caravaggio was of inserting his own gnarly visage into his work, perhaps this is our Michelangelo vanquished by his appetites.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

b. 29 September 1571

d. 18 July 1610 (38!)

portrait by Ottavio Leoni 1621

Until next time,

respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque